Hand to Hand - This ranges from grabbing someone by the arm and yanking them out of their car thru the all too typical struggles when people resist being handcuffed all the way to out and out brawls. Typically, most confrontations do not go above this level.
Capstun - The second most often used tool in a physical confrontation, this is more commonly known as "macing" someone. This is what usually happens when an officer perceives that someone is proceeding to physical combat against him or is being very resistant. It is painful and takes away sight and breath but has a low risk of actual harm. One problem is that it does not always work. Anyone who has spent any time with officers has heard them tell stories of people whom the spray did not effect. Another problem is that some officers do not like the spray. I've heard more than one officer complain about how using it can mean he gets it in his eyes and lungs as well; of course, this is both painful and dangerous for the officer.
Nightstick - I can't remember the last time that I heard of an officer using a nightstick (when not wearing a pink bunny suit). I think that, in general, it has been supplanted by capstun on the less lethal side and tazers on the more lethal side. There are circumstances wherein neither of those two options is valid and the nightstick is called for (like the capstun spray or tazer malfunctioning) but the nightstick isn't likely to be used as much as it used to be.
Tazer - This is a step down from the use of lethal force. Tazers should be used in those situations wherein the officer is faced with serious harm or death but can avoid it by using the tazer instead of using a firearm. An example of this would be an officer facing down someone with a knife. There are obvious reasons why an officer should not close with this person. Prior to tazers the options would have been to put his life in significant danger by closing with the knife wielder or use of a firearm. Now the officer can stand off and incapacitate the knife wielder without putting himself in danger.
There are obvious dangers with applying an incapacitating electrical shock to a person. There are persistent anecdotal claims of death caused by use of tazers and I strongly suspect that at least some of them are well founded (although it would seem to be a very small percentage). Unfortunately, some appear to be in denial over this and when sold tazers seem to be marketed as a replacement for capstunning. They're not. The potential lethality - if only for those with medical conditions or of a certain age - means they should not be used as readily as less lethal means. HOWEVER, this does not mean that tazers should not be available for officer use. The probability of killing someone thru the use of a firearm is much higher that it will ever be thru the use of a tazer. Faced with a valid choice between tazing or shooting an officer should taze every time.
Rubber Bullets - Although I've heard of prisons using these (and rubber grenades), I've never heard of police forces (I may be showing some ignorance here). Rubber bullets are a less lethal option. I say less lethal because if rubber bullets hit a vulnerable spot (eye, temple, etc.) they can be deadly. However, in most applications they are not. This option is something which could be used if the knife wielder mentioned above was down the street, beyond the range of the tazer's wires. It is also a method for use against groups of people; if charged by a group of people rubber bullets are an effective means of breaking the charge.
Lethal Force - Not going to insult everyone by telling them that this means the officer is required to use a firearm.
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Drawing bright lines as to when escalation should occur is almost impossible. Factors which will cause different reactions will be the person confronting the officer (an 80 year old grandmother is going to get treated differently than a 350 lb. steroid freak), how many officers are present, how many non-officers are present, and probably an infinite number of other factors. Each situation must be addressed according to the situation at hand.
One thing we must remember is that the officer is nor require to "fight fair." He is allowed to react in a manner which is meant to insure his safety and bring the situation under control. This means that he can escalate beyond what is offered to him. Of course, the reaction must still be proportionate and that will vary from case to case. If the 80 year old grandmother calls him a "whipersnapper" and swings her purse at him he isn't going to be justified going for his tazer. On the other hand, if the 350 lb. steroid freak comes out of his car mumbling something about God's vengeance and starts chasing the 140 lb. officer the officer could very well be justified going straight for the tazer (maybe even the pistol).
So, I am left with the question: how would I advise officers in a similar removing a resistant person from the library situation to act. I'd advise them to "lay hands" on the guy (do police everywhere use that phrase?), put him in handcuffs, and then hook him under the arms and drag him out like they finally did. If he does anything stupid - resist getting handcuffed, flop around on the floor to keep you from lifting him, hook feet in doorframes, yell for others to jump you - capstun him. Get control and get him out; don't give the mob time to form.
Steve, you did this sort of thing for a living once upon a time. Comments? (or from anyone else)